PITTSBURGH – As the Cubs return to Wrigley Field for their final home game, High-A South Bend manager Lance Rymel is scheduled to meet the Midwest League champions.
“I’m anxious to pick his brain about a couple things with the new rules,” Cubs manager David Ross said last week.
Major League Baseball has used the minors as a testing ground for rule changes, three of which are coming to the big leagues next year: pitch clocks, defensive shift limits and larger bases.
The latter two did not make waves in the teens of the pitch hour. Defensive shifts are less common in Single-A, High-A and Double-A—where MLB has tested its limits—than in the major leagues. And playing with big bases is a direct transition.
The pitch clock, however, has dramatically cut average playing times. Earlier this month, M.L.B. By introducing pitch time, the average nine-inning game time in the minors went from three hours and four minutes last season to two hours and 38 minutes — a 26-minute difference.
“Our pitchers this year have been really good at getting the ball on the field instead of waiting 30 seconds,” Rymel said in a conversation with the Sun-Times a few weeks ago, during South Bend’s final series of the season. “He will speed it up, the fans will be happy. Not that much difference, just faster speed. It’s a nice fast pace. It’s not too fast, it’s perfect.
Triple-A Iowa Cubs manager Marty Pevey said he was skeptical of pitch timing when MLB announced its debut for the minor leagues. Now he says he likes it.
“Once I saw how it helped the growth of the game – the main thing I’m on the board with is building a big base of baseball fans,” he said.
MLB modified two aspects of the rule.
The major-leaguers will have a little more time on the clock. Minor-league pitchers had 14 seconds to start their pitch with no runners on base and 18 or 19, depending on the standard, to start their pitch with at least one runner on base. Major League pitchers have 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 with a runner on.
Minor league hitters get at least nine seconds left on the clock, while major league hitters get eight seconds left.
Peavy has some other ideas for how to improve the rule. He filled out a survey for MLB about the rule changes and wrote that pitchers should get 20 seconds per clock regardless of whether there are runners on.
“What has to happen is when the pitcher comes in, the clock has to stop,” Peavy said. “They have to be able to catch the ball. Because if you can handle the ball, you really control the run game. But if you can’t handle the ball, you can’t control the run game. Especially if you get two shots. Now they have extended their lead [off the base]And you have a great foundation.
The pitch clock comes with a step-out limit. You can release the rubber twice at the same plate – to pick off a runner or reset the clock – without penalty. If the pitcher is out for the third time, he is called out unless he is called successful and the runner is thrown out.
I’m not a big fan of that, because then someone who knows what they’re doing and knows how to handle runners takes a strategy. I-Cubs pitching coach Ron Villon told the Sun-Times. “And in a Major League Baseball game in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, you’ve got to have the ability to pick somebody for the third time. So you tie the pot a little because of that.
In the minor leagues, the phase-out counter does not reset the center field appearance. In the majors, at least, it will be when a runner passes.
On the other hand, Villone, a former MLB pitcher, said he doesn’t understand why some pitchers take so long between pitches.
“My thing is, if it changes the outcome of the game of baseball, whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s a problem,” he said of pitching. But if you manage it a little bit and make it very fair and very consistent, I have no problem.